GE Healthcare readies new echo products for shipment

September 29, 2004

Portability and power are key to two new ultrasound products that GE Healthcare launched the end of August at the European Society of Cardiology meeting in Munich, Germany.

Portability and power are key to two new ultrasound products that GE Healthcare launched the end of August at the European Society of Cardiology meeting in Munich, Germany.

GE's new portable echocardiography system, the Vivid i, performs at a level comparable to high-end cart-based systems, yet it weighs only 10 pounds. The product, which opens like a laptop to reveal a 15-inch LCD screen, is designed to be carried to the patient's bedside but is compact enough to find a home in the OR. Unlike some competing systems, the hand-carried Vivid i features a full complement of cardiovascular phased-array probes that support Doppler as well as gray-scale and color imaging.

"It is really a full-featured echo machine--not a screening device and not a low-cost compact system," said Al Lojewski, GE global marketing manager for cardiac ultrasound.

At the other end of the spectrum is the cart-based Vivid 7 Dimension, a premium cardiovascular system so named because it integrates 4D into routine cardiologic exams. The volumetric model of the heart evolves on screen a little at a time, with the image filling with each heartbeat until the complete volume appears after four or five beats. The image refreshes one segment at a time, beat-to-beat, Lojewski said.

The oldest beat is thrown out and the next added, so the sonographer can continuously see the full volume in action. This provides the feedback the sonographer needs to optimize image quality.

"You see a motion artifact, you can tell the patient to hold still or hold his breath," Lojewski said.

Operators can view the data in 4D or look at single or multiple planes of the heart simultaneously. Triplane imaging provides three views simultaneously from an apical perspective, capturing wall motion starting at the apex. Biplane imaging provides two views from the parasternum. Single views cut through any plane desired.

One transducer provides these three capabilities, as well as volumetric modeling. It also supports Doppler, harmonic imaging, and quantitative measurements.

"We call it beyond 4D imaging," Lojewski said.

Both the Dimension and Vivid i will begin shipping in the fourth quarter of this year. The Vivid 7 Dimension, outfitted with special software and a 4D-compatible transducer, will list for close to $200,000. The Vivid i will go for less than $100,000.

GE hopes to leverage its newfound technological strength to gain share in the echocardiography market. The Vivid 7 Dimension demonstrates that GE has the most advanced echo platform, Lojewski said. This claim will be supported by data from clinical studies that are nearing completion. The data should be in hand by November, in time for both the American Heart Association and RSNA meetings.

The Vivid i runs much of the same software and relies on many of the same components as the Vivid 7. Missing are some of the premium features such as stress echo and 4D. The strength of the hand-carried system is its ability to do mainstream exams such as transesophageal echo from a box the size of a laptop PC that can run full speed for an hour without plugging into an outlet.

"We have concentrated on providing the features you would need to go to a patient's bedside in the ICU, CCU, or neonatal intensive care unit," Lojewski said. "It can also go into the OR, where space is at a premium."

The hand-carried Vivid i is the cardiology soulmate to the company's LogiqBook, which is designed for radiologic applications. Just as the Vivid i shares parts of the Vivid 7 platform, so does it draw from the LogiqBook with its built-in keyboard and trackball in the center. Vivid i, however, has a very specific mission.

"We see this as a focused cardiovascular product in the Vivid family and the LogiqBook as a member of the Logiq family," he said. "These are application-specific products and product lines."

The Vivid 7 Dimension is at the top of GE's echocardiography portfolio. The Dimension configuration, built on the Vivid 7 platform, is different from anything currently on the market, according to Lojewski. The Dimension builds upon the TrueScan architecture developed for the Vivid 7 platform, using a single computer to do postprocessing on the fly. Competing 3D systems generate volumetric images after a delay of 10 or more seconds, according to Lojewski. They may also require a separate computer to handle the load, which slows down the processing. The Vivid 7 Dimension offers a comprehensive assessment of the heart in real-time on a single computer.

"With the ability to do single-plane, biplane, and triplane imaging, you get a better understanding of the cardiac anatomy," he said. "It provides the foundation for moving into 4D imaging."